Date of Completion


Embargo Period



welfare, administrative hearings, hearing officer, perceptions, role

Major Advisor

Edna Comer, PhD, MSW

Associate Advisor

Louise Simmons, PhD, MA

Associate Advisor

Nancy A. Humphreys, DSW

Associate Advisor

Vicki A. Lens, PhD, JD, MSW

Associate Advisor

Cristina Wilson, PhD, MSW

Field of Study

Social Work


Doctor of Philosophy

Open Access

Open Access


Little is known about the officials who conduct administrative hearings for aggrieved welfare clients. Hearing officers are charged with ensuring due process for welfare clients, called appellants in the hearing process, who believe that mistakes have been made in their cases and who wish to challenge those decisions. Administrative hearings are one of the few vehicles that afford clients the opportunity to contest welfare policies and procedures. This study explored welfare hearing officers and their perceptions of their roles in conducting hearings.

The concepts of role theory, organizational climate and aspects of professional training were used to examine the role perceptions of hearing officers. Semi-structured interviews, intended to identify officers’ beliefs about their jobs, were conducted with 27 participants who had social services-related degrees. Findings demonstrated that officers strive to be fair and impartial, yet perceive role conflict and ambiguity as a result of several factors related to the players in the hearings process. Findings suggested that organizational climate impacted officers’ feelings about their agencies based on constant changes to agency functions. The benefits of professional training and education on officers’ roles were examined and will also be explained. The paper concludes with a discussion around the study’s findings and concludes with the study’s limitations and implications for social work research, practice, and education.